Sally Carpenter Interviews Noelle McNabb of the Psychedelic Spy Mystery Series

Welcome to Novel PASTimes. We’re glad you dropped by. What’s special about your name?

Hi, I’m Noelle McNabb, 25 years old. My parents named me Noelle—the feminine version of Noel—because I was born on Christmas Day. Rather appropriate, because my town is Christmas-crazy.

What’s unique about where you live?

I reside on Ornament Lane in the small rural town of Yuletide, in the southwest corner of Indiana. The biggest industry in town, besides the electronics plant, is the Christmas Cozy Family Fun theme park, which draws visitors from across the country. Our town mayor plays Santa Claus because he looks the part, with his white beard and chubby belly.

The school kids work at the park as well, loading the rides and singing in the shows. The park has rides, carnival games, a petting zoo, music, fun house and naturally, tykes can talk with Santa all year round. Artists and craftsmen sell their wares. Of course, all of the merchandise is Christmas-related.

What’s special about the time you live in?

It’s 1967, and the times, they are a changin’. I love rock music, new movies, pop art, hair styles, the big shopping mall and the groovy miniskirts. But my parents are a drag, ‘cause they’re stuck in the 1950s. Mom wants me to get married and raise kids like she did. Maybe someday, but not now—I have big career plans. My parents and I have what they call the “generation gap.” My parents also frown when I hang out with the hippies, Rambler and Moonbaby, who are pretty far out once you look past the tie-dye and their counterculture lifestyle.

But beneath our quiet, small-town life, it’s a volatile era: war protests, draft dodgers, women’s liberation, space race, Cold War and the civil rights movement.

I heard that you have an avocation along with your regular job

I work as an actress at the theme park, which means I play the Winter Witch—complete with long black robe and green makeup—in a silly musical revue. During the school year when the park is only open weekends, I supplement my income with a few weekday shifts at the Groovy Vinyl record shop.

I have another job, if you can call it that, but I can’t talk about it because it’s a secret. I can’t even tell my family and friends, which drives me crazy because I share everything with mom. All right, I’ll tell if you promise not to spread it around: I do occasional undercover work with a super-secret spy agency. Not even the CIA knows about SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Enemy Surveillance and Espionage). They have a fantastic underground headquarters, but don’t ask me where it is because whenever I go there, I’m driven in a car with tinted windows.

Who are the people you work with at SIAMESE?

Dash Hanover is the senior control operative in charge of everything. He knows his stuff, but he’s demanding and unyielding. I was shocked to discover he and I are related, although I’m not supposed to know that. His mother is an aunt I’ve never met and never knew existed. I want to find her, but Dash doesn’t—he feels my aunt’s safety would be compromised if the enemies of SIAMESE find her.

My spy partner is Destiny King, a fab gear black operative. She grew up in a rough neighborhood of Chicago. She’s had some hard knocks, but she’s super to work with. I’m still getting to know her, as she refuses to open up and share her feelings.

Can you tell us about your missions?

Sorry, that’s classified information. All I can say is my first mission concerned missing microdots and the second was tracking down an enemy spy. I can say no more.

I’ve heard you’ve also solved a couple of murders

That’s right. My friends at SIAMESE helped as well, but I was the one who put the clues together. Yuletide is a sleepy town, and we usually don’t get crimes like murder, so the (overweight and lazy) police chief was out of his league and needed all the help he could get. 

Did anyone aid you in your crime solving?

Trevor Spellman is a reporter with the Yuletide Herald, the local newspaper. He’s great at finding information and just being there for support. We’ve known each other since high school, but we’re just good friends.

Since you’re unmarried and childless, do you have any siblings? Pets?

Yeah, a brother and a sister. They’re twins. They’re much younger than I am (they were an unexpected “oops!”). I babysit them when mom and dad go out, which can be a bummer when I’m needed on a spy mission. Dolly and Donny are 8 years old, so I can’t pal around with them, and they can be bratty.

I have a big fat black cat, Ceebee, which is short for car burglar. He likes to steal things and hide them under my sofa. I have to clean out his “treasures” periodically. I have a little cottage in the country, and Ceebee is good at keeping the mice cleaned out of the woods.

Ceebee helped out on my second mission. SIAMESE fitted him with an ear implant and a microphone in a collar. He slipped up on some spies, and Destiny and I could hear the conversation transmitted through the collar from a safe distance away.

What’s the religious life like in your town?

People go to church. It’s what we do, along with going to work or to school. You’d have to go to Riverbend, the big town a few miles away, to find a synagogue. My family and I attend Bethlehem Community Church, the largest Protestant church in town. Holy Nativity is the Catholic parish, and they hold folk Masses.

On Sunday morning I go to Sunday School and the service along with my friends. On Wednesday nights, the church hosts a potluck dinner followed by different activities. The kids have crafts and games. The teens sing the new “Jesus music” and rap. My parents attend the couples class, and I go to the social issues discussion. 

My faith sometimes clashes with my spy work. I refuse to carry a gun. I won’t kill. It’s wrong. My spy partner, however, had killed and feels no remorse. She said it was either the other guy’s life or hers.

Spies also lie a lot. I have trouble with that, as I was raised to always speak the truth. Destiny has the moral line that “the means justify the end.” I’m not comfortable with that if it conflicts with my ethics.

What are your dreams for the future?

I want to move to Hollywood and star in movies or TV, although working with SIAMESE has given me plenty of real-life drama. Do I want to work in spy craft full time? I couldn’t handle the endless danger, secrecy and deception. But sometimes, performing in a TV sitcom seems trivial compared to the life and death stakes in spy work. I can make a difference in the world whenever I stop evil men and bring murderers to justice.

Thanks for letting us get to know you better, Noelle. Good luck with your future missions!


Sally Carpenter writes two clean read, cozy mystery series: Sandy Fairfax (five books) and the Psychedelic Spy (two books). She also pens the Roots of Faith column for a community newspaper. Her first book, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” was a finalist for the 2012 Eureka! Award for best first mystery novel. She also has short stories published in three anthologies. She holds a master’s degree in theater and a Master of Divinity. She’s previously worked as an actress, movie studio tour guide and college composition instructor. Sally grew up in Indiana but now lives in California. Her website is sandyfairfaxauthor.com.  

An Interview with CeeCee from Karen White’s Dreams of Falling

Thanks to Elise Cooper for providing this interview. You can find more from Elise here.

For those who do not know CeeCee Purnell she is a reflection of her times, growing up during the 1950s and 1960s in the South.  Her life is a plateau, with many ups and downs. Growing up and living in Georgetown, South Carolina, she raises her late friend’s daughter, Ivy, and her daughter, Larkin. CeeCee is grateful that Larkin has returned home after nine self-exiled years to help locate her missing mother, Ivy. Larkin finds out that in 1951 three best friends, Ceecee, Margaret and Bitty have just graduated from high school with all their dreams ahead of them.  CeeCee has agreed to open up about her experiences and what happened during those turbulent years.

It must be bittersweet for you to have your granddaughter returning home, while your daughter, her mom, is trying to survive a horrific accident. It must have brought back memories from 1951 when your life changed forever. Thank you for consenting to this interview because you can be an inspiration as someone who had hard knocks but survived.

 

9780451488411 (5) 

NPT: Do you see yourself as a product of the 1950s?

CeeCee:Definitely.  Especially Southern small-town 1950s.  Being the only daughter of a pastor, I was definitely sheltered from the realities of the world outside of Georgetown, South Carolina.

 

NPT: Do you regret going on the road trip after graduating high school?

CeeCee: No.  I wish I could go back and change a few things, but if I hadn’t gone, I never would have met the love of my life, Boyd.

 

NPT: Do you think writing on ribbons and sticking them in a tree is rather nerdy?

CeeCee: I’m not sure what you mean about the word ‘nerdy’?

 

NPT:  A geek?

CeeCee:If you mean fanciful or even a little far-fetched, then yes.  It’s like blowing on a dandelion and making wishes on the seeds—we know it’s not real, but we can’t help but believing there’s a small part of truth in the legend.

 

NPT: Were you, Bitty, and Margaret considered The Three Musketeers?

CeeCee:We were never called that, but I felt that way many times throughout our childhoods together.  We were rarely apart, and believed we really were “all for one, and one for all.”

 

NPT: How would you define friendship?

CeeCee:A good friendship can be defined as loving someone unconditionally—even when things in your own life are sliding into the ocean and all has been stripped away, you can still be loving, giving and kind to your friends.

 

NPT: How did it feel to be a surrogate mother to Margaret’s daughter Ivy and a surrogate grandmother to her daughter Larkin?

CeeCee:I don’t feel as if you need to be related by blood to feel a kinship with someone.  I was raised with two younger brothers, but always felt as if Margaret and Bitty were my blood sisters.  My mother was a wonderful example of how to mother, and I suppose that’s why when I saw two children who needed mothering, it was easy for me to step in.

 

 

NPT: Do you agree with your granddaughter’s friend, Bennett’s attitude about Carrowmore and developers?

CeeCee:Absolutely.  Few people seem to realize anymore that our history lives on in old buildings, and that once they are gone, along with the stories and memories that are contained within their walls, they are gone forever.

 

NPT: Do you wish Bennett and Larkin hooked up?

CeeCee:When, while back in high school?

 

NPT:  Yes?

CeeCee: No. They were friends first.  It’s only when they became adults and Larkin could see Bennett with adult eyes did it make sense for their relationship to move into something deeper.  And neither Larkin nor Bennett are the ‘hooking up’ kind of people—their relationships are meaningful.

 

NPT: Do you think it is good or bad to keep a secret?

CeeCee: It depends on the motive.  If it’s to protect a loved one, then it can be excused and/or forgiven.  If it’s used for subterfuge, or to keep hiding something that might help another person, then no.

 

NPT: Does Bitty still play an important role in your life?

CeeCee:I think it’s natural for people who’ve known each other for so long to get on each other’s nerves sometimes, just as it’s natural for your love to grow to something deeper.  There is something special about someone who’s known you your whole life, knows all your secrets and flaws, yet loves you anyway.

 

NPT: After the accident and Ivy unconscious, was it hard to see her physically there, but unable to communicate with her?

CeeCee:Of course—she’s always been like a daughter to me.  The one thing that got me through those early days was believing she would wake up and be able to answer all the questions we had for her.

 

NPT: Do you think dreams really do come true?

CeeCee:Only when hard work and determination are added to the dreaming!

 

NPT: Who taught Larkin how to shag dance?

CeeCee:I’m thinking probably her mother, or Bennett.  They used to have impromptu dance/ barbecue parties when they lived near each other.

 

NPT: What do you do for fun?

CeeCee:I love to work in my garden and of course I love to bake.  I always make sure I have something in the freezer waiting to be defrosted in case of unexpected company.

 

NPT: What are your interests besides baking and gardening?

CeeCee:I love keeping in touch with my friends and being an active member of my church and community.

 

NPT: Are you content with your life?

CeeCee:Absolutely.  I’m surrounded by family and loved ones.  I’ve had losses, but I’ve also had a great deal of love and blessings in my long life.

 

NPT: If you could put another ribbon in the tree what would it say?

CeeCee:I wish Larkin would stay in Georgetown forever!

 

NPT: Is there anything you want to add, if so please do?

CeeCee:Be kind to one another.  And honest. Those two things alone will guide you through life.

 

NPT:Thank you for your time and insight!

Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty previous books, including The Night the Lights Went OutFlight PatternsThe Sound of GlassA Long Time Gone, and The Time Between, and a coauthor, with Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig, of The Forgotten Room.

Karen White credit Marchet Butler
Karen White credit Marchet Butler